“London?” she cried in wonder. “Oh, whatever for?”
“You’re not dull here? You’re not lonely?”
“Dull? With you? Lonely—lonely with you?”
After awhile she lifted her head and locked her fingers fast in his, and asked,
“When is your birthday?”
“In July—the twenty-fifth. Why?”
“I’ll have a grand present for you,” said Her Grace. “A baby. A baby that’ll have a yellow head and a twinkle in both his eyes. A baby that’ll grow tall enough to thrash the wickedness out of his black brothers and have sense enough to laugh instead of doing it.”
He bowed his head over the linked fingers.
“Biddy, what more will you give me, you who have given me all the world?”
“’Tis a small thing,” she whispered. “July. That will be a year since you came to see me dance?”
“A year, my heart.”
“How many days are there in a year, did you say?”
“Three hundred and sixty-five.”
“A day—a day is a poor short thing,” said Her Grace. “If I had a wish, I’d wish them longer.261 ’Tis cold in here, with the wind roaring down the chimney. Hold me closer—hold me fast.”
And with spring her wish was granted, and the days were longer; not long enough to hold the joy they poured into them—but filled to the brim with pale sunlight and primroses and hawthorn hedges. And it was June, and they were longer still, flooded with golden warmth and the smell of yellow roses and life and magic, and the taste of honey. And it was July, and it was his birthday—and the world stood still.
Her Grace gave him the yellow-headed baby for a birthday present. When they brought him his son he looked at him with strange eyes and turned his face away and asked them in a voice that none would have known,
“How is she now?”
The great doctors who had come hurrying from London shook their heads, and were grave and pompous and learned.
“Bad. Her heart was in a shocking condition—she had not told you?”
No—no, she had not told him.
“Well, we must hope; we must hope.”
But soon they could no longer hope; soon hope was gone. For all their dignity, for all their learning, they could only give her drugs to make it easier to die; they could only prop her up against262 the pillows in the great Tudor bed, and smooth the dark coverlet, and tiptoe from the room, leaving her to her duke. She sat there still and small, her hands on his black head where he knelt beside her, with so little breath left to tell him of her love that she sought the shortest words, she 长沙桑拿休闲娱乐会所 who had been a spendthrift of them.
“Darlin’.” He did not stir, even at that. “Never grieve. I’ve known it a great while; they told me in London before you came that ’twould be no more than a year. And my Aunt Dasheen, she was wise before they. ‘Wed at seventeen, dead at eighteen’——”
“Biddy,” he whispered, “I’ve killed you—I’ve killed you.”
“Oh, what talk is this? You, who gave me my life? I never minded the dying—’twas only when I thought how lonely it would be, with no one caring whether I came or went. I’ve forgotten what loneliness is with you by me. Look up at me.”
He raised his head—and her eyes were dancing.
“Has it yellow hair?”
“Will you teach it to laugh?”
“’Twill be dull in Heaven without you,” she said. “But ’twill be gay when you come.” She263 leaned toward him, her lips curved to mischief. 长沙桑拿价格 “Wait till they tell my Aunt Dasheen—Saint Peter himself will have to laugh. ‘Woman, there’s someone just come asking after you—a little one, even on her toes. She says her name is Biddy and she’s Duchess of Bolingham——’”
The faint voice trailed to airy mirth, and with that music echoing still about her Her Grace closed her dancing eyes, and closed her laughing lips, and turned her bright head away and was gone, as lightly and swiftly as she had come.
THE HONOURABLE TONY
“YOU actually mean to tell me that you don’t want to get out of this dripping hole?”
“My dear old ass, why on earth should I want to get out of it?”
Anthony Christopher Stoningham Calvert faced the incredulous glare of the freckle-faced young gentleman from Ohio with engaging candour. Four years of soaking in tropical pest holes and rioting from Monte Carlo 长沙桑拿网 to Rio, from Shanghai to Singapore, since they had met, and yet there he sat, sprawled out full length in his great cane chair, as cool and shameless and unconquerably youthful as though he had just been sent down from Oxford for the first time. Even in the light that filtered in through the cane shutters, green and strange as the pallid glow that washes through aquariums, it was clear that time had found no power to touch that long grace, that bright head with its ruffled crop of short hair, those gay eyes, wide set and mischievous in the brown young face, those absurd dimples, carved deep into the lean curve of the cheek. Young Ledyard265 gave a bark of outraged protest, his pleasant face flushed and exasperated under its thatch of sandy hair.
“You mean it? You aren’t coming back with me?”
“Not for all the gold in the Indies, my dear kid—or out of them either, if it comes to that.” The Honourable Tony, as he had been dubbed by a scandalized and diverted public, grinned alluringly through the vaguely sinister light at his onetime comrade at arms. “The whole thing is absolutely ripping, I tell you, and the only thing that I ask is to spend the next sixty years doing precisely what I’m doing now.”
“I don’t believe you,” rejoined his baffled guest flatly. “Why in God’s name should you want to rot your life away in a little backwater Hell, when I can give you a first-rate job twenty-four hours after we land in America?”
“But, my dear fellow, I wouldn’t have your job as a birthday gift. You may be the heir apparent to the greatest rubber business in the whole jolly globe, but try to bear in mind that you see before you the chief, sole, and official British Imperial Adviser to the fattest little Sultan in Asia—who incidentally eats up every word of wisdom that falls from his adviser’s lips and sits up and begs for more, let me tell you.”
266 “And let me tell you that it’s common gossip in every gutter in Singapore that your Sultan’s a black-hearted scoundrel who’s only waiting for a chance to double-cross England and do you one in the eye.”
“What happens to be the current gutter gossip about his adviser?” inquired that gentleman blandly.
Ledyard’s jaw looked suddenly aggressive.
“Never mind what it happens to be. What I want to know is why your friend Bhakdi isn’t back in his dirty little capital trying to straighten out some of the messes he’s got himself
into instead of squatting up here in the jungle hunting tigers?”